Nordic environmental graphics and wayfiding signage at Copenhagen’s international airport
From the second you step off the plane and into the terminal at Copenhagen International Airport, it’s is immediately evident that the Danes know how to create great, simple and functional graphic design. The Nordic approach to design is immediately noticeable, the whole airport is covered in the most millimetre perfect wayfinding signage. They have signs for everything, just take once glance in any direction and in front of you there is a sea of signage, yet the hierarchy means you can really easily find where you need to go. Letters are perfectly kerned, there are no ‘rogue’ sings as you often see when a non-design employee has had to quickly make a sign and doesn’t follow the standards manual.
The excellent design goes far beyond the wayfinding signage. They have almost gamified the passport control queue area with colour coded vinyl stickers on the floor. As you get closer to the passport counter, the floor goes from red to yellow to green, and at each step, there is a different instruction such as “open your passport to the photo page”. The design makes the wait go by faster while getting everyone in the queue ready for the border officers. Because everyone is following the steps, (and everyone really did) the line actually moves quicker as those extra 5 seconds saved for each person add up when there’s a plane full of people to go through. They have managed to make the whole process more efficient simply through great design.
The whole airport has very few bare walls. Large pieces of vinyl cover walls to make the airport process friendlier and more accessible. Closer to the gates, walls feature giant arrows, with floor to ceiling sized arrowheads, so the traffic flow is continuous in the same direction. After baggage reclaims, a large vinyl on a temporary construction wall says ‘Hej!’ pronounced ‘Hi’ but with more emphasis on the ‘i’, meaning Hello in Danish. In another part of the airport, they are adding more gates to serve more aircraft. Passengers have to walk through the construction site, but they covered the walls in bright pink, and orange vinyls with LED lights embedded behind the stickers, so the walls magically light up as you walk past them. It completely distracts you from the construction work.
Another thing that I have never seen before in an airport is the vinyl floor sticker countdown to the gate. Some of the gates can be a 10-15 minute walk away, so a countdown graphic at crucial points on the journey lets passengers know how many minutes the remaining walk is. It’s another example of how the design team behind the graphics at Copenhagen Airport have gamified the experience to make it more fun and efficient.